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Anti-realism in the foundations of physics[edit]

Rovelli's 'Relational' interpretation of quantum mechanics is anti-realist (it should be called 'Perspectival'). In analytic philosophy, anti-realism is an epistemological position first articulated by British philosopher Michael Dummett. There are others. There are six types of Anti-realism, which is Metaphysical anti-realism, Mathematical anti-realism, Semantic anti-realism, Scientific anti-realism, Moral anti-realism, Epistemic anti-realism. 2601:647:CD01:628:5880:17FB:EA34:806D (talk) 19:42, 1 March 2017 (UTC)


Actually I would rather describe anti-realists as being agnostics toward "reality" and Irrealists as being open to all workable versions. e.g. Realism works some of the time.Joseane 15:24, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Might want to make a clearer definition in the link to Goodmanian Irrealism... JB

I've outlined the beginnings of a page here, but there is much more to be said. We need to mention the different kinds of anti-realism, and the major proponents of an anti-realist position in a variety of different areas... MRC

Added some comments about the use of the term "anti-realism" in the arts with a warning that the term may not be used as precisely as in pure philosophy.

Daniel C. Boyer

I don't think Hacking believes electrons don't exist because they are unobservable. As such the statement may be misleading. I think Hacking's position (see Leplin "Scientific Realism") is that once an entity is used as a tool the reality is assumed to exist. By way of example, since electron microscopes are used as tools scientists have committed to their ontological reality.

We should also mention his non-philosophical activities: eg. his anti-racism, his work on election systems, his work on the history of Tarot.

Surely that is better served as an independent page on the guy himself? - Entsuropi

Beliefs of classical logicians (mathematical realists)[edit]

I have re-worded:

Similarly, intuitionistists object to the failure of the existence property for classical logic, where one can prove , without there being some term for which is provable.

to be

Similarly, intuitionistists object to the failure of the existence property for classical logic, where one can prove , without being able to produce any term of which holds.

I think that classical logicians believe that there real mathematical things which they cannot construct (I used the unformal word `produce'), but which nonetheless exist. So when a classical logician gives a non-constructive proof of he or she really does believe that there is some suitable term. But I confess I don't really understand what classical mathematicians mean when they say 'exists' Neil Leslie 10:54, 31 December 2005 (UTC)

The change is a good one. Classical logicians believe that one can have abstract grounds for believing in the existence of an entity without being able to produce it: the famous non-constructive proof of the existence of two irrationals that can be combined by the exponential operator to produce a rational shows what kind of grounds are indicated here. If you want to get philosophical, Michael Dummett's talk about verification transcendence cuts to the meat here. --- Charles Stewart 13:41, 31 December 2005 (UTC)

Timothy Williamson's "Must Do Better"[edit]

I think it might be worth noting somewhere in this article Tim Williamson's paper "Must Do Better", which I think is available somewhere on his website, which criticizes anti-realism and made quite a stir when it was first given. Yesterdog 21:05, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

American Evangelicals are so special??[edit]

the material world, or even thought. Anti-realism, as a psychological construct, is most often found among American evangelical Christians.[citation needed]

This needs more than just a citation needed since:

1- It doesn't make much sense ( "As a psychological construct"?) 2- It is false.

Honestly I have a hard time believing that Evangelists are antirealists - if antirealism is "true" there is no objective reality and thus "God's view" is perspective and not actually "true". Please, please reference the American Evangelical bit! They might be anti-realists in one sense scientifcally (they don't believe electron's really exist, for example) but I thought if that happened they tended to believe God is there instead - "objectively" there, realistically there. Certain realists have given their POV that American Evangelists are anti-realist (and non-cognitive), but that doesn't mean they are. mr_happyhour

(I moved the last comments under this heading.) I agree; this line baffled me when I came across it. There's no other mention of a 'psychological construct', this article explores a philosophical one. And why should this particular group be singled out, anyway? Deleted.Eaglizard 07:38, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

External World[edit]

The article is very limited. It implies that anti-realists deny the existence of the external world. This isn't necessarily the case, certainly in the most simple (and I think sensible) interpretation. External, 'objective' things clearly 'exist', the anti-realist position as I understand it is that the concepts that define those external things only exist in the minds of the perceiver. The 'classic' example being the table that is actually a 'bunch' or 'bundle' of energy arranged in a certain way. That is its 'objective reality'. Its existence as a 'real' table is entirely dependent on the minds of the subjects perceiving it. Thus no 'thing' is real except by having been defined as such by something perceiving it. If there were no-one around to see it as a table and put stuff on it, it wouldn't be a table, even though the 'bundle of energy' we call a table would still be there.

I've just noticed the American Evangelical point. Denying the existence of something is very different to being an anti-realist. American Evangelicals are the ultimate realists, everything is real in the external, objective world, whether you perceive it correctly or not, because of the existence of God. God is the basis of the underlying reality of all things, the guarantor of the external world. If you believe in God (certainly as that word is usually understood) then you're a realist. Denying the existence of electrons is simply on a par with denying evolution. 00Mike26 (talk) 22:26, 20 March 2008 (UTC)

Solipsists claiming ...[edit]

The article says:

For example, an "anti-realist" who denies that other minds exist (i. e., a solipsist) is quite different from an "anti-realist" who claims that there is no fact of the matter as to whether or not there are unobservable other minds (i. e., a logical behaviorist).

To whom do they deny it? To themselves, then how do we know? To us, then why, and who are we? Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 16:06, 14 May 2010 (UTC)

Actually, I once saw an article in New Scientist called "You do not exist. It's just a trick of the memes." It seemed to say (from what sense I could make of it) that memes are living creatures and we are simply tanks they swim around in.

As to why, don't get me started. LOL (talk) 13:32, 17 July 2011 (UTC) Collin237

Putnam's anti-realism[edit]

While I'm not up on the details, I've added a section after Dummett to cover Putnam's anti-realism; someone more knowledgeable than I should feel free to expand; for now it just has a link to the section of Putnam's article that discusses internal realism BrideOfKripkenstein (talk) 02:19, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Some corrections on Dummett's version of A-R[edit]

Well, there were a couple of errors and omissions in the Dummett section so I edited that up a bit.

Cheers Simon —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:35, 6 December 2010 (UTC)

Question raised in article summary[edit]

Cleaned up a dangling (citation needed?) in the summary which was not relevant. There was however an interesting point raised, although arm-chairish IMHO. In response to

For example, an "anti-realist" who denies that other minds exist (i. e., a solipsist) is quite different from an "anti-realist" who claims that there is no fact of the matter as to whether or not there are unobservable other minds (i. e., a logical behaviorist).

The inquisitor objects "Actually this presumes that there are declared solipsists; to whom do they declare themselves?"

This is a valid point, but I think it distracts from the summary and really confuses the matter. This is material for, say, a problem at the end of a section on anti-realism in a text on analytic philosophy intended for first-year students, but I don't think it is notable enough to warrant inclusion in the article proper. The article isn't meant to poke its head into all of the dark corners, but it may be of some interest to someone here. (talk) 07:22, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Intuitionism vs. Platonism vs. Formalism[edit]

The view presented in this article about intuitionism and platonism presents a false dichotomy and also fails to present the maximally anti-realist view of mathematics, namely that of formalism. From a formalist perspective, the 'truth' of a statement is not a question of consequence, and the truth of a statement is not derivable from within the theory. What we care about is the 'provability' of a statement, which obviously depends on our ability to derive it from the axioms of our mathematical theory (See N. Bourbaki's Theory of Sets for an explanation). Intuitionistic logic and classical logic then both can be expressed within this anti-realist framework. 'Truth' insofar as we care about is generally not even something we can make sense of, given the existence of unprovable 'true' statements. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:45, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

What do I make of this?[edit]

In particular, we cannot in general claim that "P or not P" is true (the law of Excluded Middle), since in some cases we may not be able to prove the statement "P" nor prove the statement "not P"

How can you not prove "P or not P"? There is no cited reference, and in bivalent logic "not P" is not a proposition of its own, it's simply the inverse of P. Whatever P is, NOT P is the opposite, and as such "P or not P" is true. Who argues for the statement I am quoting, and on what basis? (talk) 20:34, 27 June 2013 (UTC)


What flaws do realists find in anti-realism? This would round out the article nicely.

A question about moral anti-realism and relativism[edit]

Carneadesofcyrene, I have a quick question for you about the material recently added regarding the relation of moral relativism to moral anti-realism. It seems to me that there is an obvious retort to the claim that a relativism that makes reference only to written laws is any different to a relativism that makes direct reference to mental states, namely that the written laws are still just expressions of someone's mental states, and conversely, someone's brain-state encoding a mental state is just as physical as the ink on a page is; what matters is whether the morality-maker is just "because X says so" or not. I would be shocked if this is an original thought of my own, but you're clearly much better-versed in finding sources for things like this, so I was wondering if you were familiar with a source discussing this, both for my own further reading, and because it seems something like that should warrant inclusion in the encyclopedia. Thanks for your time. --Pfhorrest (talk) 22:24, 11 March 2021 (UTC)

Pfhorrest. Hmmm. An interesting question. The challenge will come in determining exactly what is meant in the metaphysical thesis. There is at least some room for ambiguity here as Joyce's SEP article points out. "Of course, the notion of “mind-independence” is problematically indeterminate: Something may be mind-independent in one sense and mind-dependent in another. Cars, for example, are designed and constructed by creatures with minds, and yet in another sense cars are clearly concrete, non-subjective entities." One might consider a car a mental property, but this is likely a stretch Joyce insists that some versions of moral relativism are moral realist positions ( My best estimation of that was the law following rule that if you think that laws are the kinds of things that are mind independent as they are made up of ink and paper and not in anyone's mind (though one might have a different definition of mind-independent as you mention, i.e. one might be concerned (as in Wittgenstein or Derrida) that there is ever an objective interpretation of a text outside of context or a language game). Maybe a better framing of it would be something like "If you think written laws are mind-independent, then the maxim that you must obey the laws of your country would be morally relative."

Even beyond that distinction, there is a controversy around how exactly the metaphysical thesis should be phrased and therefore whether relativism would be included. Vayrynen in MacMillan's Encyclopedia of Philosophy argues for a slightly different phrasing, which would include moral relativism in all cases.

I'm not sure of a good further reading on this, beyond starting with G.E. Moore's Principia Ethica and building up the various commentary on it from there. Those are talking about the similar but importantly different question of whether moral properties are natural (since naturalists and non-naturalists are generally both considered able to be realists). Or looking at Wittgenstein on Language Games or Derrida on textual interpretation for questions on how objective/mind independent the text of a law is. Carneadesofcyrene (talk) 01:29, 12 March 2021 (UTC)